While Peter Jackson’s final film in his epic “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was showered with Oscars, that won’t be the case for the first installment of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” The film picked up just three Oscar nominations, putting it in the running for Makeup and Hairstyling (which it may have a shot at if the voters take beardstyling into consideration too), Production Design and Visual Effects. In that final category ‘The Hobbit’ will face stiff competition in the form of “Life of Pi,” “The Avengers,” “Prometheus” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” but three new featurettes argue that the work done by Weta on ‘The Hobbit’ deserves to come out on top.
Between them, the other nominees created an array of digital/digitally enhanced characters including a Bengal tiger, a Hulk, that weird stag in SWATH, and those Jason Statham-esque aliens in “Prometheus,” but a new article over on Hero Complex argues that their achievements were (literally) dwarfed by ‘The Hobbit.’ The article explains that Weta faced unique challenges thanks to Jackson’s decision to shoot in 48fps, and the scrutiny that would be on the theater-like dialogue scene that depicted the “Riddles in the Dark.” The three featurettes each go into specifics on how Weta worked on Gollum, Azog and the scrotum-necked Goblin King.
Whether these will do anything to sway Academy voters is another matter, but there’s no doubt that the film produced some truly incredible visual effects. We would, however, argue that even by focusing on these three characters there’s a noticeable variation in quality. Gollum’s flawless, and while we weren’t exactly convinced by the Goblin King as a whole, some of the design details that were realized for that character were truly stunning. It’s this writer’s opinion though, Azog in particular was a weak creation, possibly reflecting Jackson’s late decision to include the character. Frankly we still think this category is fairly open, but if there’s one thing these featurettes draw into focus it’s how unlucky Andy Serkis has been never to be recognized with a statuette for his performance as Gollum.